There is something very appealing about a partially derelict building – and something very sad about its abandonment too. My visit to The Grange at Northington evoked both of these emotions but principally, the great pity of an unloved but beautiful house.
The track leading up to the mansion is basic, to say the least, but it’s worth it as this is one of the foremost examples of the Greek Revivalist style in the UK. This facade was created between 1804 to 1809 when William Wilkins encased the earlier Georgian house in its classical garb.
You can still see one wall of the original house (the interiors apparently remained unchanged) when one of the wings was demolished.
The somewhat austere result was disliked by the then owner, banker Henry Drummond who, disappointed, sold it to his neighbour, Alexander Baring of the banking dynasty. The park still remains in the hands of the family but the stewardship of the house itself (Grade I listed) was handed over to the Department of the Environment in 1975 – now known as English Heritage.
In its past, The Grange was leased to George, Prince of Wales, in 1795 who used it as a hunting lodge with over 400 deer in the park. There were house parties galore in its heyday around the1860’s attracting the likes of Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Lord Tennyson and other society figures. It was here too in 1944 on 24th March where Churchill and Eisenhower met at The Grange to discuss the invasion of Europe. Part of the 1999 film Onegin starring Ralph Fiennes was also filmed here.
Thank goodness therefore that new life has been brought into one part of this great house with Grange Park Opera now using what was the conservatory as a theatre. Studio E Architects were responsible for the design, winning a number of prestigious awards in the process. Grange Park Opera opened with a summer festival in 1998 and now run an ambitious operatic programme throughout the year in the theatre which opened in 2002.
The Grange at Northington lies four miles north of New Alresford off the B3046, accessed by a basic farm track. Entrance is free. The grounds are open most days between 10.00 – 18.00.
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